Monday 24 November 2014, a large dark cloud rises above Kasumbalesa. Yet, no is storm gathering, there has been an explosion. A Tanzanian driver recalls, “the Whisky border car park was severely damaged”. Some 70 tank trucks loaded with petrol caught fire in the blaze. The size of the event is disconcerting for a single Monday afternoon. It gives an idea of the volume oil products being transported along the copper belt towards the ex-Katanga region (Haut-Katanga, Lualaba, Haut-Lomami, Tanganyika). We investigated into the transport routes and infrastructure challenges of getting in and out of the region.
Refined oil products consumed in the four ex-Katanga provinces mainly come from Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. They transit via intermediary passage points; Chirundu for example, between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The bulk of the oil is transported in tank trunks. Tankers are the most uniformly used mode of transport in the countries traversed. Average monthly consumption of oil products in Katanga sits around 40,000m3, meaning a passage of 1,000 trucks per month. This flow has an impact on its support – the road – creating infrastructural challenges across the four provinces of the sub-region.
The first challenge is road maintenance and durability. The other challenge is to avoid traffic build-up across the region by reorganising the road network. This could include new routes (to ease Kasumbalesa-Lubumbashi traffic), building new junctions (to improve traffic flow in urban hubs) and increasing rural penetration (to guarantee access to the remotest areas). However, all this doesn’t come without a considerable cost: set at approximately $150,000/km according to the World Bank. Opening the way to other means of transporting oil products in addition to road transport is one idea. There is an historical foothold for railway in the region. So, considering the potential economies of scale, national and transnational railway networks could be added to the current road service on key routes before passing on the relay to road traffic locally.
Transportation of oil products to ex-Katanga’s four provinces has two key issues: logistics and infrastructure. Roads are currently the main answer. Economic analysis, consensus among the key players in region concerned, crucial investments and timing will all determine when other solutions will come into play. The diversification of the oil product transport landscape in the sub-region is perhaps already on its way.Article publié dans Mining and Business n°3 – Novembre/Décembre 2015